Duterte to behave 'with dignity' after taking office

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaking at a news conference in Davao city on June 2.
Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaking at a news conference in Davao city on June 2.PHOTO: REUTERS

He will drop the cursing and crass behaviour but he offers no apologies for past actions

The Philippines' unapologetically brash President-elect has promised he will become "a butterfly" after he is sworn into office, saying he will drop the cursing, crass humour and misogyny that have been landing him in hot water.

"There's going to be a metamorphosis in the mind. From a caterpillar, it blossoms into a butterfly," the 71-year-old Mr Rodrigo Duterte told reporters during one of his late-evening briefings on Thursday.

"When I… take my oath of office (on June 30), if you want a conduct in keeping… with the dignity of the office, there will be a metamorphosis."

For now, he added: "I (will be) enjoying my time as a rude person."

Mr Duterte drew flak for cat-calling a 36-year-old, married female TV reporter during a nationally televised news conference on Tuesday.

He was also criticised for suggesting that journalists had been killed because they were corrupt.

NO COVERAGE? NO BIG DEAL

I do not care if no one is covering me.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE, on a call for the media to boycott him.

But although he promised to be more civil, Mr Duterte offered no apologies for his recent actions.

He insisted that wolf-whistling was "not a sexual thing". To drive home this point, he whistled about nine times as questions were thrown at him on the topic during his news conference on Thursday. "That's my freedom of expression."

He explained that for the act to be improper, "it needs to be a cajole". There has to be something akin to an invitation from the whistler in order for there to be a sexual undertone, he said.

On calls for journalists to boycott him for his comments on media killings, he said: "You idiots. Do not threaten me. I said I'm ready to lose the presidency, my honour or my life". He then added an expletive. "I do not care if no one is covering me," he said.

Reporters Without Borders had called on the Philippine media to boycott Mr Duterte's news conferences over his comments that corrupt journalists were legitimate murder targets.

Somehow, thinking that the group was pushing for United Nations protocols, Mr Duterte went on an attack on the UN. "That son of a bitch UN. They can't solve killings in the Middle East. They don't even lift a finger… over the butchering of black people in Africa. Shut up," he said.

"Do not force your code of conduct on me… I never signed anything that says I have to behave in this or that manner."

Yesterday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that while it believes corruption does not justify media killings, a boycott is not the way to go.

In a statement addressed to Mr Duterte, the group said: "While we may have our differences, as we have had with past presidents, it has never occurred to us to abdicate our duty, which is to keep watch on the government and help ensure it does right by the governed and to scrutinise and ask the hard questions."

Meanwhile, one of Mr Duterte's close aides, Mr Vitaliano Aguirre, Mr Duterte's justice minister and law school classmate, told The Philippine Daily Inquirer: "He uses hyperbole to attract attention to what he wants to say... You have to give him leeway."

Mr Boo Chanco, a newspaper columnist, said journalists "have no choice but to adjust". "I listen to Duterte… with a mind to pick what is substantive and disregard the theatrics," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte to behave 'with dignity' after taking office'. Print Edition | Subscribe